Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee’s family on Monday turned down the request of the CPI-M leadership to drape the expelled member’s body in the red flag and allow him to be taken to the party’s West Bengal state headquarters here for people to pay their last respects.
“The party had requested us that they want to take the body to the state headquarters for partymen to pay their respects. But we said, we don’t want. The party had requested us that they wanted to drape the body with red flag. We refused,” Chatterjee’s daughter Anushila Basu said.
Chatterjee, a ten time Lok Sabha member — nine times as a CPI-M candidate and once as an independent backed by the party — was expelled on July 23, 2008, for refusing to step down as the Lok Sabha Speaker after the party withdrew support to the UPA-1 government protesting against the India-US civil nuclear deal.
He died at a Kolkata nursing home on Monday, aged 89.
Anushila recalled that she had seen her father shed tears the day the party expelled him.
She still vividly remembers the day the CPI-M politburo took the decision.
“I was in Delhi then. I told my father that from now on, you are a free bird. My father asked me whether he has been show caused? I told him the truth….After some time, I went to see him at his chamber. I found him sitting in his ante-chamber with tears rolling down his eyes,” she said.
Anushila said neither Chatterjee, nor any other family member, could accept the harsh decision.
However, she said Chatterjee to the last had a deep love for the party.
“We often tried to provoke him to speak against the party. But he never uttered a word against the party. So deep was his fondness.
“The divorce was only on pen and paper. But mentally, he was not divorced from the party,” she said.
Anushila said a number of other parties and others had come to his father with many lucrative offers. “But his answer was always the same — No”.
CPI-M sources said as per the party constitution, an expelled member has to apply for his re-entry into the party. Feelers had been sent to Chatterjee in that regard, but he refused to apply on his own. However, Chatterjee had let it be known that he would be game if the party on its own took him back.
“Somnath da is Somnath da. He is incomparable. We had tried to resolve the issue. But it got stalled on a technicality,” said CPI-M state secretariat member Rabin Deb.
“We continued to have regular connection/relation with him,” said CPI-M state Secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra.